You won’t be surprised by much in The Rain, but you will be entertained. If you’re familiar with post-apocalyptic fiction and YA drama, you’ll see the threads of your favorites everywhere in the show. But you’ll also realize pretty quickly that The Rain is some of the best survivalist drama to hit screens in years, even if it leans heavily on the familiar tropes, with exciting, unpredictable and genuinely likable characters that keep you glued to the screen.
Created by Danish filmmakers Jannik Tai Mosholt, Christian Potalivo, and Esben Toft Jacobsen, Netflix’s first original Danish series kicks off its action in a hurry. We meet teenaged Simone (Alba August) in the opening moments, wide-eyed in panic about running late for a test and scoring a date with her handsome friend. But none of that matters. Moments later, her father (Lars Simonsens) comes charging through the school halls, grabbing her by the arm, and frantically bundling her into the car with the rest of the family, offering no explanation other than a few ominous warnings about the rain.
A tense race down the highway and one narrowly avoided collision later, the family ends up at a high-tech bunker just as the deadly droplets begin to fall in the forest around them. They are lucky, and as we’ll soon find out — there aren’t many who were lucky. But they suffer their blows, too. Their all-knowing father skips out once they’re safe, offering no answers, insisting he’s the only one who can save the world, and instilling in Simone one duty: to ensure the safety of her younger brother, Rasmus (Lucas Lyngaard Tønnesen), who dad says is the key to it all. Shortly after dad leaves, mom runs into some bad luck, and boom, it’s just Simone and Rasmus; young, alone, and terrified, in a bunker that has everything they need. So that’s where they stay. For six years.
Waiting dutifully for their father to return and caring for each other in lockdown, Simone and Rasmus are ignorant to what transpires beyond their walls — branded with the “Appalon” insignia of the mega-corporation their father works for. From the inside, all Simone and Rasmus know is there’s a deadly virus carried by the rain, that it’s fast-acting and harrowing to behold, and that their dad is trying to fix it. Flashbacks reveal that Simone knows a bit more, even if she’s not sure how to cobble together the bits of overheard conversations with her father, who might just have created this apocalyptic virus in an attempt to cure his sone of another unknown illness. You’d do well not to put too much thought into the logistics of the virus and its transmission (especially how everyone seems to be fine in the constantly misty environments,) but if you can let that go, it’s a decent setup for the drama that unfolds. In the present day, Simone tries to put the pieces together, including an unaccessible network of Appalon’s underground bunkers, but it’s only when the food runs out and Simone has to head above ground that the siblings start to learn the extent of the nightmare they’re living in.
Once the outside world is introduced again, The Rain really takes off, growing into a more complex and satisfying ensemble piece where everything is uncertain. That’s true not just for Simone and Rasmus, who are disoriented beyond measure in the grey, dingy remains of the world they knew, but for the audience as well. After years of dystopian and post-apocalyptic media saturation, we’re familiar (some would say overfamiliar) the tropes of the genre at this point, and any The Walking Dead or The 100 fan will groan and shake their heads at the some of the rookie mistakes these characters make. But in the three episodes provided to press, The Rain offers a potent mixture of enticing mystery, propulsive action, and most importantly, fascinating characters that aren’t easy to pin down.
Each core character in The Rain offers a fascinating perspective on the set of horrifying circumstances they’re stuck in, and nobody plays like a one-note stock character. Instead, The Rain introduces you to characters who seem to fulfill familiar archetypes in the genre and slowly, cleverly reveals who they really are. It’s a handy trick and an excellent piece of well-paced storytelling that always keeps you invested, because each and every character turns out to be vastly more interesting than you think they’re going to be. In a series like The Rain, where the action is set so far after the Big Horrible Thing, there comes a moment where you realize everyone who’s still alive is alive for a reason. For some, it’s killer instinct. For others, clever manipulations. Some people are just survivors, and some, like Simone and Rasmus, are lucky. They’re all engaging, and only more so with each new revelation.
The Rain‘s greatest strength might be its clever hand with doling out information. If post-apocalyptic fiction has become too rote and familiar over the last decade, a good mystery yarn never loses its appeal, and The Rain spins mysteries well, dropping reveals and intriguing tidbits with impeccable timing. That quality makes The Rain a great binge show, something that has you hitting play on the next episode the second credits start to roll, and I’d be genuinely surprised if this didn’t become one of those buzzy series your friends keep asking you about. The subtitles may put some folks off, but if you’ve got room in your life for one more post-apocalyptic drama, this one’s worth putting down your phone for. Of course, it all hinges in the payoff, but if the Netflix drama pulls through with answers that satisfy as much as the questions intrigue, this might be one of the most entertaining, fast-moving binge-watches of the year.
★★★★ Very good
The Rain premieres Friday, May 4th on Netflix.